Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is suspected of bribery in Case 4000, one of the ongoing investigations facing the Israeli leader, a police investigator said at a court hearing Thursday morning.
One of the biggest cases facing Israel's Prime Minister, Case 4000 deals with the relationship between the Ministry of Communications -- at a time when Netanyahu held the position of communications minister alongside the premiership -- and Israeli telecommunications firm Bezeq.
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Prosecutors say Benjamin Netanyahu advanced regulatory benefits worth up to 1 billion shekels (approximately $280 million) to Shaul Elovitch, Netanyahu's friend and Bezeq's controlling shareholder. In exchange, prosecutors say Elovitch gave Netanyahu favorable news coverage on an online news site he owned called Walla! News.
Thursday's hearing, held in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, was about Elovitch's assets, which have been frozen by police. Elovitch, who proclaims his innocence, is suspected of fraud, bribery, money laundering, corporate breach of trust, and more.
Questioned by Elovitch's lawyers, police investigator Uri Kanar said, "(Sara Netanyahu) is a suspect in the case. She was interrogated under caution for bribery."
"She was? Not the Prime Minister?" asked Elovitch's lawyer.
"The claim, if I understand it, is that Mrs. Netanyahu commits, together with the Prime Minister, a felony of taking bribes. Is that correct?"
In response to the statements made in court, the Netanyahu family released a statement dismissing the allegations.
"What is new in this absurd suspicion? So, the police said it. These things never happened," the statement said.
Sara Netanyahu was questioned "under caution" in connection with the case in March, meaning she was questioned as a suspect.
In a separate case known as the "Meals-Ordering Affair," Sara Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust. Prosecutors say she illegally spent more than $100,000 on meals and private chefs for the Prime Minister's official residence in Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister has also been questioned "under caution" in Case 4000. Police investigators confirmed in Thursday's hearing he is suspected of bribery.
He is suspected of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust in two other investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000.
On August 24, the Prime Minister was questioned for the 11th time. Netanyahu has said he did nothing wrong and that all regulatory decisions made in the Ministry of Communications were done only after consulting with experts.
Asked about the status of the investigations, a police official said in court, "The investigation is in advanced stages," adding that it would be turned over to prosecutors within six months.